Together the national parks of Armando Bermúdez and José del Carmen Ramírez occupy a whopping 1,530 square kilometers of the central mountainous area, which includes the highest point in the Antilles, Pico Duarte , and neighboring peaks La Pelona, La Rucilla, and Pico Yaque. The parks were established in the late 1950s in an effort to salvage what was left of the virgin forest of the island. Since Columbus and his men arrived, it’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of the island’s forests were destroyed due to fire and development.
The northern Parque Nacional Armando Bermúdez is the larger of the two, with 766 square kilometers of protected area. It has both subtropical humid forest and subtropical rainforest temperate zones, giving it a perpetual spring-like climate with temperatures sometimes dipping to a chilly 18°F (-8°C) during December and January nights, leaving a thin layer of frost over the foliage. Flora of the park is varied and depends upon the elevation but mainly consists of local pine trees like the Creole pine (Pinus occidentalis), a tree endemic to the island.
The park is home to many birds and other fauna like the Hispaniolan parrot, Hispaniolan trogon, the palm chat (the Dominican national bird), the Hispaniolan woodpecker, the hutia (a rodent), and a wild boar species. In the lower elevations, small snakes are found.
Directly south of Bermúdez is the Parque Nacional José del Carmen Ramírez, covering 764 square kilometers of the Cordillera Central. Inside its region are the Yaque del Sur, San Juan, and Mijo Rivers, and its climate is subtropical humid mountain forest. This park is also home to the Valle del Tétero, where you’ll find pre-Columbian rock art.
Combined, the two parks have lavish amounts of water running through the region. More than 10 of the country’s main river systems flow through them, making them some of the most fertile regions in the nation, irrigating almost 5,000 hectares of land.
Planning a vacation within the national parks alone is a way to experience the Dominican Republic  in a way that most tourists do not. If you are hiking, plan on having a couple of days of preparation and at the very least 2–5 days of hiking time, depending on which trail you decide to take. Everyone entering the park must have a guide accompanying them.
If your time in the parks is only a leg of your trip within the greater Dominican Republic, save a couple of days for exploration at least. Spending a cool night in the mountain air is a refreshing break from the humidity and sticky heat of the coastal areas. Plus, you’ll want a couple of afternoons for exploration of waterfalls, bird-watching, or whatever catches your attention.
Admission to the park is RD$100 and you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. The ranger stations (8 a.m.–5 p.m.) are at the start of each of the La Ciénaga, Sabaneta, Mata Grande, Las Lagunas, and Constanza trails . Here you can ask for maps (but it’s rare that they are stocked with them) and ask about guides if you are not hiking with an organized tour group .